The inaugural Sundance Institute Discovery Impact Fellow for environmental filmmaking, Chasing Coral helmer Jeff Orlowski saw his last documentary, Chasing Ice, receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song, and screen for Congress, the White House and the UN. Chasing Coral, his “thematic sequel” to that film, has been acquired by Netflix and employs world-class photographic technology to capture the rapid disappearance of coral reefs across the globe.
Appearing at Deadline’s Sundance Studio the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration — and as all mentions of climate change were swept off the White House website — Orlowski and the docu’s subjects Richard Vevers and Zackery Rago discussed their journey and the challenges faced during production.
Said Orlowski: “A couple years ago, Richard sent me an email and told me about what was happening with the oceans, and we started talking and learning quickly that there’s a very visual story there that we could tell, and that we could explore, and as our team grew, and Zack came on, and a bunch of the other scientists on our team, we set out on this crazy expedition around the planet for three and a half years now.”
Over at The Ocean Agency, Vevers was working on a project to document the world’s oceans, using Google Street View technology, which ultimately led to a global survey on corals and a deeper understanding of the imminent dangers of coral bleaching, as one of the world’s essential ecosystems continued to disappear.
Enter Rago, whose underwater time-lapse camera technology was critical to the execution of the documentary. “Any time you’re working with technology underwater, you’re facing some huge problems, and the biggest one is biofouling, so things get dirty really quickly underwater,” Rago said. “And in order to do long-term time lapse that has a clear image for a project like this, that’s so cinematic and aesthetically beautiful, my team’s really the only ones who can pull that off with the technology that we have.”
“We know that the science behind climate change is very real, and what we’re trying to do with this film is just to speed up all the solutions that we know are available,” Orlowski added. “We’re designing a big impact campaign for the film, and we hope to take it all across the country and all around the world, and to be able to work with local communities to help them transition, because this is where we’re going to see the most success over the next several years.”
Check out our interview above.